Channel Hopping

The soft underbelly ofa toothless old hound was shamelessly displayed in Clive James’ Postcard From London. James. as a TV critic. used to have a Bad Sight OfThe Week. and this feeble reminiscence of the Swinging 60$. combined with lazy. empty philosophies and the usual half-hearted attempts at self-deprecation. would have held offall challenges comfortably.

Time was when James could be relied upon to inject a note of mischief. a hint ofirreverence into these films. He‘d enjoy poking fun at eccentrics. bloated millionaires and pseuds. and suggesting that maybe the good life wasn‘t great after all. In London. James himselfwas the wealthy pseud with an eccentric beliefthat we wanted to hear his

: shallow opinions on the riche. both

nouveau and aristo. with whom he now feels so comfortable.

After a token attempt at recognising London‘s underclass

. (‘How do the kids afford these rents? 3

Maybe they don‘t.‘ he said in his best Not-My-Problem tones). James rapidly graduated. via Langan‘s Brasserie. to the people he was really

interested in. swapping mens‘-club

nostalgia with Alan Coren and Michael Caine. and lapping up boozy old tales from ‘characters‘. ‘If you‘re not embarrassed by money. you can enjoy it.‘ said photographer

Terence Donovan. He made a

million taking pictures ofwomen in short skirts in the 605. and spends a healthy amount of it on Rolls-Royces and cigars in the 90s. while still taking the occasional photo. What he didn‘t say was that if you aren‘t embarrassed by it. it‘s likely you‘re the sort ofostentatious. thick-skinned. taste-deficient butterfly who would turn up at Bubbles Rothermere‘s parties. Thankfully. the guests had the decency to wear masks.

James was criminally soft on the appalling Bubbles. perhaps out of relief at finding someone with more superfluous flesh than himself. Her favourite people were ‘men of

action. doers. people who achieve things. and spark ideas offeach other.‘ Perhaps in former days James might have had the temerity to ask her how she reconciled these views with her own lifestyle; throwing lavish balls. sipping champagne. and. er. that‘s it. Instead he simpered his assent and helped himself to more strawberries and cream. Perhaps James should stick to his real forte. ridiculing the Japanese. and leave the social observation to those with a less obvious desire to be embraced by the British Establishment.

In the USA. they have a sensible institution whereby an unsuccessful i show can be just ‘disappeared‘ from the schedules if it isn’t working. Were a similar system to operate over here. Packet Of Three (Channel 4) wouldn‘t have got past the first commercial break. and network chiefs would have been on the hot-line demanding the resignations ofeveryone responsible. The latest tired attempt to televise cabaret. within a sort of loose sitcom format of a run-down Northern theatre (ho. ho) makes use ofsome ofthe jokes you thought were safely buried in a lead sarcophagus with a stake through their punchlines. They’ve scraped


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Normal is like the control in some cosmic comedy experiment, the only man in the world devoid of any trace of wit, charisma or personality. The game shows beckon.

the barrel for performers and dredged up the disturbing figure of Henry Normal. who has made a career on the circuit by the interesting gimmick of never saying anything remotely entertaining. a I kind ofalternative Sid Little. Normal is like the control in some ! cosmic comedy experiment. the only 3 man in the world devoid of any trace ! j l

ofwit. charisma or personality. The game-shows beckon.

Regional variations are a funny thing. Last Thursday the rest of the country were treated to a rare screening of Plague 0t The Zombies. in which. ifI remember rightly. voodoo hits a Welsh village, and the rural life is enlivened by the visits of Jones the flesh-eating automaton. Even Grampian. usually ever-willing to replace such juicy network fare with folksy documentaries (their schedules have been attacked by Mods more often than Brighton beach) ran the film. Yet. down here in Central Scotland we were forced to put up with grizzled old Donald MacCormick and the soporific Night Flyte. What is it. Zombies too good for Central Scotland are they? lfso, how come there‘s a new series of Sportscene starting this week? (Tom Lappin)


I funny yet terribly i j

i ‘A gem that 15 both awfu serious, strikin at the heart of our contemporary

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The List 9— 15 August 199195